With the increasing electrification of Volkswagen’s fleet, the company has come up with a plan to deal with EV batteries at the end of their lifecycle. Volkswagen says its ID.3 factory can crank out 330,000 cars per year. Instead of merely recycling them, VW has two paths for old batteries to take.
MEB battery packs can be re-used in portable charging stations, which can hold up to 360 kWh of energy and which have a maximum quick-charge output of 100 kW. The stations can be taken to places where there isn’t yet a “proper” electric vehicle charging grid, and like VW says, they can be used at remote locations such as music festivals. Customers will not have to wait until the first MEB cars to donate their batteries a decade or so from now, as VW says it will begin full-scale portable charger production next year. This approach is largely similar to what Nissan is doing with Leaf batteries, for example powering lighting at disaster areas.
When the batteries are damaged, or too gone to be used for the greater good, they will be ground up at Volkswagen’s battery recycling center at Salzgitter, an old engine plant south of Wolfsburg. The Salzgitter facility has been producing internal combustion engines since 1970, and continues to do so in the future, but its side gig will be recycling some 1,200 tons of electric vehicle batteries per year, or the amount of batteries from roughly 3,000 vehicles.
The shredder at Salzgitter eats up individual battery parts and produces a “black powder” made of cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel, which can eventually make their way to new batteries after proper separation.
VW states that 53% of battery pack parts can be recycled today, and when the Salzgitter grinder reaches full capacity, that figure is said to rise to around 72 percent. The target is to reach 97% recyclability, with other recycling plants in the pipeline after Salzgitter.